by Manoj Kumar
Patna: Amid talks of Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar planning to go it alone at the elections, the state government has turned to old classics to reach out to the masses and renew contact with them ahead of the next year’s general elections. Nitish’s anxiousness has been apparently stoked by the growing “Modi-as-PM” chorus within the BJP much against his wishes.
With propaganda now turning out to be a powerful tool to form public opinion in this age of technological revolution, the Nitish Kumar government is shrewdly using the old Hindi films to disseminate information about development schemes launched by them in Bihar. Previously, the state government had heavily relied on advertisements and put out advertisements in newspapers as part of the government's publicity campaign.
The government believes the true and clear information about the development schemes will not only make the people aware about the benefits of schemes launched for their welfare, but will also remove from their minds any misgiving about the government at a time when the Opposition parties in Bihar have aggressively launched “oust Nitish” campaign. Right now, Rashtriya Janata Dal of Lalu Prasad has launched “Parivartan Rally” in the state while his ally, Lok Janshkti Party chief Ram Vilas Paswan has launched “Bihar bachao yatra”.
To begin with, the government is screening a Raj Kapoor-Waheeda Rahman starrer Teesri Kasam in far-off villages through 115 audio-video vans flagged off by the information and public relations minister Brishen Patel, who is considered very close to the Chief Minister. The film is being screened between 6 in the morning and 9.30 in the evening, during which villagers are being informed about the government schemes at intervals of every 15-20 minutes. By the state's own admission, the latest publicity blitzkrieg will cost over Rs one crore, and will last till November this year when the country will be preparing for polls.
The 1966 Bollywood classic written by popular Bihari litterateur Phanishwar Nath Renu is set in a rural location, with a large chunk of the film shot in the Purnia district of the state. The government says these aspects of the film will attract large crowds of villagers to the audio-video vans and the occasions could be well utilised to run its publicity campaign. In the first phase, the film will be shown in 2,000 panchayats of Bihar while the remaining 6,463 panchayats will be covered in the next phase.
“No scheme can be a success unless the people come to know about them. The people need to know about them to enjoy their benefits,”Information and public relations minister Patel said.
“We are giving detailed information to the masses about various important government projects such as health, education, agriculture, rural development, food and consumer affairs, road construction and animal husbandry,” he said.
The move assumes significance given the growing strain in the relations between the BJP and the JD-U. Last week, during the two-day national executive meeting held in New Delhi, the BJP “unofficially” declared Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi as the NDA’s Prime Ministerial candidate, despite the Bihar chief minister having hinted at his displeasure with the candidature in the past.
There are also reports that Nitish is edging towards a possible alliance with the Congress in the aftermath of “Modi-as-PM” chorus at the recent BJP conclave. What has lent credence to the possible alliance is Nitish openly expressing his “whole-hearted” thanks to Finance Minister P Chidambaram following the Union Budget despite the BJP criticising it. The Bihar Chief Minister's words were quickly followed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh acknowledging the high-growth achieved by the state, and Kumar wasted no time in thanking the PM for his words of appreciation.
The gamble of an alliance, if being carried out, will need to be handled with great care given the political risks. It is in light of such possible risks that the JD(U) is going to the masses to get their reaction about the possible alliance with the Congress, before initiating the next course of action.